What Is Your Blind Spot?
#WhereIsYourBlindSpot is the podcast for Sept. 17, 2017. Richard M. Nixon and Peter have blind spots that Jesus points out to them. What are they and where is yours? Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Forgiveness #Matthew18 #Nixon #Jesus #Peter
Full Text of Podcast, Open Here
For The Church of Saint Raphael the Archangel, Munster, IN and My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 9/14/2017 The 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 18:21-35.
On November 18, 1973, President Richard Nixon, who had authorized the break in of the Democratic Party Headquarters at the Watergate office complex, who had just 29 days before fired Attorneys general until he could find one that would fire the special investigator into his cover up of the Watergate scandal, stood before the cameras and told the American people, “I am not a crook…I have never profited and I have never obstructed justice.”
Forgiveness is the bright shining light that reveals the blind spot of our individualist culture. We avoid it like the plague. Forgiveness is something that is easy to demand from others and hard for us to see we need to request. Forgiveness is something we don’t want to ask for because we will have to admit that we were wrong; it is something we don’t want seek because we will have to confront someone who doesn’t want to admit that they were wrong. People who cannot admit they are wrong are dangerous.
Peter comes to Jesus and asks a question, I believe, to set up a situation where he can elevate and exonerate himself. According to the scholars, it was required that a person forgive someone three times. So, Peter comes and says in essence, “I am going to do better than the scribes and tell you that we ought to forgive seven times.” This is just after Jesus tells us that we should go and reconcile with others. Think about it, forgiving someone seven times is pretty generous. Leave it to Jesus to show us our blind spots.
Peter’s blind spot is that forgiveness isn’t a thing that we do, it is a disposition and way of life. He doesn’t even realize, I believe, that to set up a scenario where you proclaim that you are going to outdo the scribes and scholars in your interpretation of the law is arrogant. Arrogance is a sin because it tells everyone else that they aren’t as important as you. Ironically, people who are arrogant usually are puffing themselves up because they don’t really think too much of themselves. Trust me, I know arrogance well. Arrogance is a sin and needs forgiveness.
In the story from the Gospel of Matthew, our Savior does not disappoint. He takes a verbal pin to Peter’s pride filled bubble. We should not forgive just seven times, but seven times seventy times, says the Greek. You would have to be a real bean counter and pretty petty to keep track of that. Can you hear it? “Oh, sorry, that is time number 491! You have reached your quota of forgiveness from me.”
As the story of the unjust steward shows us, we can be hurtful and unforgiving toward others, which is a sin. We, way too often, have blind spots when it comes to our own need for forgiveness. How very nixonian of us!
Last week, we sought reconciliation because others had hurt us. I want to thank Madge, Marge, and Betty for showing us how that was done. This week, even when someone owes us something, our disposition needs to be one of forgiveness because of the forgiveness we don’t even see that we need.
I am sure that there are any number of things for which we could be angry about: when we felt someone took for granted our relationship as family members to the point they thought they could treat us badly. In a work environment, where competition would cause others to treat us like part of the furniture to be climbed over or stepped on for the greater human good of ‘career advancement’. I am sure there are plenty of slights to go around. Living in a small town, or a concentrated part of a large metropolitan area, you can have plenty of slights: kids who don’t make the all-star team, kids who make the all-star team, but don’t get to play, rejection from getting into a service club, being discounted by a school administrator, being treated poorly by a town official, being treated poorly by a town citizen as a town official, being looked over for a raise, or a trip, or not being recognized for the work we have done.
There are all kinds of ways that we can be hurt, ignored, or abandoned by others for which we have a right to be angry. We have a right to ask for forgiveness from others, but what about when we do these very things to others without realizing that we are doing them?
When we go to Confession to receive tangible forgiveness from God spoken to us face to face, it is important that we think of all the ways in which we do not forgive others. As a species, humans are selfish and mean. What we need to remember is that we are part of that species. There are ways in which we do the very things that we get angry about. We do tend to cast stones as we stand in glass houses.
What might be helpful for us is to know that forgiveness, besides being a way of life, is also not an emotion. Forgiveness is a behavior. I may know you do not deserve to be treated well, but I am going to treat you well because of who I am. That is another lesson of the King and the unjust steward. We should probably rename this parable, “the parable of the forgiving King”. The story is much more about how God takes into account our situation, how we are often poor of spirit and goodness. So, he knows he has to forgive a huge amount of our arrogance and self absorption when he interacts with us. Good grief, we have spent at least the last several hundred years trying to prove he doesn’t exist and we don’t need him. He forgives us because of who he is, not because we deserve it. He forgives through a concrete action by having his Son nailed to the Cross. Although we continue to be selfish, he still blesses us. He still treats us well. He still loves us. He does these things because of who he is AND because of who we demonstrate we are.
These are the qualities of those who forgive like the King. They forgive as a verb, not a noun. Whether the person deserves our forgiveness or not, we give forgiveness. Does this mean that we ignore the hurt and avoid addressing the situation? We addressed that last week. Yet, when we hurt someone, what is our response? Do we even recognize that we are doing the very thing we claim that we are not doing?
Peter stood before Jesus and tried to show that he was more forgiving than what the scholars of the Law of God believed was necessary. Richard Nixon, after he had obstructed justice to keep his misdeeds from getting into the public stood before God, the cameras, and everyone and said, “I am not a crook…I have never profited from my service or obstructed justice.” The steward stood before the king and begged mercy for his debts, debts he was not willing to forgive others. What are we missing about ourselves? Whatever our blind spots are, God forgives us and urges us to seek the forgiveness of others. Amen.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian